Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Weds 5th Oct: "Millinery Madness: Hat Makers With Attitude" in the International Herald Tribune

Thanks to Robb Young for including my work in his feature about the burgeoning millinery movement of the moment. Its incredibly exciting to be mentioned in the International Herald Tribune and especially amazing to be included with all the designers which Robb has researched to make up the deeply astute investigation. Here is the copy of his interview with me, and to read the final piece head over to the paper's online version here.

Q: You are one of a new wave of about a dozen young, innovative hat-makers around the world who all seemed to have appeared around the same time and who are gaining notoriety. Why do you think this is happening now?

A: I think there is a combination of factors for women wearing more edgy accessories ............. due to diminished disposable income its easier to create a new look by simply adding an accessory to old clothes. In the same way that lipstick sales rise in times of financial depression, I think that accessories equally get a resurgence. Trend setters and style icons in the public eye have also been brave and experimental in recent times, which has given inspiration and reassurance that this direction is easily achievable with great results.

Q: Do you know many other hat-makers in your generation – is there a sense of camaraderie or being part of a creative club (as well as probably a feeling of healthy competition of course) among some of you?

A: In London, most of us know each other from the social aspect of going to the same parties. That could sound very clique but its actually quite natural, fluid and in the tradition of the citiy’s creatives coming together at nightclubs (sic Stephen Jones & Boy George). I have great respect for Nasir Mazhar and have been going to his shows since the very first one, which is always a personal highlight of the fashion week schedule. I also adore Noel Stewart’s collaborations on numerous catwalks and I blog his brilliant backstage snaps which he takes behind the scenes. I’m also friends with Piers Atkinson who I share both PR, stylist and interns. He is hilarious, genuinely lovely and extremely supportive so we have a very special bond and friendship.
I think that generally speaking, milliners are typically curious and funny characters by the nature of being attracted to that quirky discipline. It makes sense that they get on because they see life through a perculiarily silly sensibility. For example Charlie Le Mindu cracks me up with both his outlandish, unpredictable designs and conversation.

Q: The boundaries of hat-making haven’t been stretched this far for decades – not since the emergence of milliners like Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy. With their notable exception, most other milliners have been catering to customers who simply want a hat to blend into the rest of their outfit. Why have you gone the route of statement-making pieces?

A: My collections are wearable sculptures which can hang on the wall in your house as a decoration or slung on your body when you want to accessorize a look. A few of these styles are made for the head because the shape of the design lends itself to fitting on that part of the body. In the beginning of my design process when I’m experimenting with techniques in 3D macquettes and prototypes, I hold them up to a head and they invariably look like exciting fascinators just in that early developed state

Q: Famous fashion industry faces like the late Isabella Blow and Anna Piaggi have long been great fans of inventive hats. Who are their younger contemporaries now? Anna della Russo or Daphne Guinness, for example, perhaps? Or are there even younger fashionistas or fashion bloggers devoted to wearing hats who have serious influence?

A: Those two most definately have influence on fashion followers as they have the funds to afford exquisite hats and keep aquiring them to build a collection with a high turnover of new pieces to wear to to premiers and private views. For the younger audience I think its all about the pop stars and musicians who have built a persona on wearing hats, such as Paloma Faith, Shingai Shinowa in the UK and Nicki Minaj & Lady Gaga in the US. As for bloggers ………. I’ll never forget that overblown saga of Tavi Tulle getting told off for wearing a large hat to a show and blocking the view of the audience behind her front row placement.

Q: Do you agree that the wearing of hats is generally enjoying a renaissance among the fashion insiders and tastemakers in recent years? If so, why do you think this is?

A: If you can pull off wearing a hat well it looks sensational. Therefore I think certain stylists choose to wear a hat to stand out against their contemporaries of inordinately well dressed and groomed individuals. A hat instantly eminates a subconcious no-mess message of strength–in the way that air hostesses have caps to command authority and receive respect. If you have a killer pair of sunglasses and a stunning fedora, the world of air-kissing and transitory introductions is probably an easier exchange for fleeting fashionistas!

Q: Do you agree that, among mainstream consumers, the craft of millinery itself is undergoing an image “make-over” of sorts? From something considered to be only for your old auntie, eccentrics, or only at very formal occasions to something now that can be used by younger people in a relevant way and that is something perhaps even cool?

A: Yes, the market is shifting which can be seen in store such as Selfridges re-designing and dedicating a new space specifically to hats. Most highstreet shops have hairbands and fascinators in with their accessories carousels now – its great! Is cheap to produce a simple buckrum headband but looks really desirable on display.

Q: What role does the new generation of pop stars and celebrities who are more daring, avant-garde and extravagant dressers (and avid wearers of hats in music videos or red carpet appearances) play in terms of generating more real demand for hats at retail? Any specific examples of these famous faces and your products which helped yield concrete PR or sales results in any way?

A: For me, its absolutely been about the Telephone Hat for Lady Gaga which is always a fascination and draw for prospective clients. She is a definite key figure in forging headwear as a trend for forward thinking dressers with a strong fashion sense.

Q: Do you think that with so many royal weddings this year and also the attention paid to the other formal appearances by the Duchess of Cambridge (wearing hats) have also helped put the spotlight on millinery and hats again?

A: Yes, the front cover of this week’s issue of Hello! Is a montage of photos of the different hats she has been wearing at recent personal appearances – that is the news story!!! Lady Gaga never wears the same thing twice, so I wonder if that has had an effect on the royal stylists to keep up with this standard set by an American pop star.

Q: Which icons and what era inspires you most in terms of the hats worn?

A: I never look at straight forward sources for reference or inspiration. I’m more interested in the structure and form of the piece rather than the fact that its fulfilling a function on the head.

Q:What is it about the hat that can elicit such strong negative or positive feelings?

A: Its down to whether its being worn with ease and conviction or as an affectation. There is no room for mistake in this area! Either a hat looks sensational or terrible which is really down to the wearer and if they are enjoying the experience! There is nothing worse than a jaunty trilby – a quote I got from Simon Foxton once in answer to his idea of a fashion faux pas.

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